Adding chat to your repertoire will improve the overall customer experience and drastically for some customers. So when deciding whether to go for it or not, think about those checkouts and those extra few percent of customers who actually need your help but won’t stop to contact you via phone or email. If you’re into improving the customer experience in general, note that this logic can be applied to any live messaging platform, especially social media.
Running multiple conversations simultaneously
From a contact center’s perspective, live chat support has a great advantage over phone and email since an agent can easily manage multiple chat conversations simultaneously and still deliver excellent service. This reduces Cost Per Contact significantly.
But how many conversations can each agent manage at once? I’ve heard this argued endlessly, and the current consensus seems to be ‘somewhere at or below five’. Exactly how many will depend heavily on the type and complexity of inquiries you usually get. For quick and easy ones, you can probably go for a high number. Complaint-style, complex inquiries that emphasize the need to get it right the first time? Probably not that many. I suggest finding out simply by testing. But once you’ve arrived at a maximum, implement it and make sure you have a plan for dealing with wait time and/or non-availability on the chat.
How to provide the best chat customer experience
It’s a great signal to send to existing and potential customers that are you there for them when they need you. Here’s my take on how best to deliver live chat support in order to achieve a positive impact on your customer experience long-term.
Be available and answer quickly
First, the most important thing when it comes to chat is to only offer it when you are available to answer quickly. When I say quickly, I mean almost instantly for the first welcome greeting. Secondly, you should be consistently available as much as possible. Some of your regular customers will get used to being able to chat with you and will take notice if the chat is not there.
To expand a bit on this, if a customer starts a chat and has to wait for a long time for an agent to answer, something that started positively can quickly turn into a really bad experience. Additionally, due to numerous poor implementations of chatbots in the last year, customers are not as trusting in chat as they were a year ago causing a “chatbot backlash.” Giving the appearance of being readily available only to let down your customers can cause them to turn away from using chat in the future.
One way to solve this is to only offer chat when an agent is available to answer. Another way is to set a limit for how long you allow a customer to wait for an agent before being informed that their conversation can’t be answered at the moment. Just turning the customer away isn’t an option, so this should lead to offering a call-back or a contact form (probably along with an apology).
Let’s have a closer look at the experience from the customer’s point-of-view. Lately, I’ve made it a bit of a hobby to look at chat options when I browse the web. One of my finds was a huge electronics online retailer that has a chat widget on their website around the clock. It says “Can we help you? Chat here!”. But when you click the widget outside opening hours you get this message:
Welcome to [company name’s] chat!
Our chat is open
Monday – Friday: 09:00-17:00
This is not a very customer-centric way of delivering service to customers. Firstly, customers are offered the option to chat when chat is not actually available. Secondly, customers are not offered any alternative way to contact the company.
If you want to provide the best experience, you basically need to make yourself as available as possible. Apart from making yourself available via other channels when a chat isn’t available, it also means getting back to the customer if he or she abandons a chat. The least you can do is make sure customers know that you received their message and you’re there to help.
Handle the conversation with the benefits that chat offers
This is aimed more at the agent or trainer, but that doesn’t make it any less important. These are some of my learnings of how to provide the best customer service when faced with a customer on chat:
- Take the time that chat offers to look up the customer’s history with your company and get information on what they did before contacting you. This allows you to preempt any objections and better fulfill the customer’s needs. Many chat applications store the customer’s page history on the website, which enables agents to see which pages customers have visited. Don’t send the customers back to a support article they’ve already spent five minutes reading.
- If you need time to answer a question, let the customer know. Don’t just leave people hanging without letting them know why.
- Since customers are used to waiting a little while on chat, take that time to make sure you provide the right answer.
- Also, remember to proofread a little; quickly skimming what you’re about to send will go a long way towards avoiding misunderstandings and spelling mistakes.
- End the chat by making sure you’ve resolved the customer’s issue and ask if there’s something else you can do for him or her. You’d be surprised how often that can come out as an upselling opportunity!
That’s it for this article. Now get chatting, and if you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to get in touch!